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Signature requirements for initiatives

Tomoya Tajika

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2018, vol. 30, issue 4, 451-476

Abstract: Signature requirements serve as barriers to prevent citizens from overusing initiatives. This study investigates the properties of optimal signature requirements by proposing a model in which the initiative process is a game played among citizens, a campaigner, and a legislature. Under the optimal requirement, the campaigner succeeds in collecting the required signatures only when it creates welfare that exceeds the cost of holding a referendum for the final decision. I specify the condition that such an optimal requirement is achievable. In addition, I perform comparative statics analyses to investigate the validity of the differences in signature requirements among countries and petition types. The results reveal a high optimal requirement when citizens have low variance regarding their opinions or do not consider the campaigned issue important. Finally, I evaluate the suggested reforms in the real world, such as imposing an additional cost on the campaigner to initiate a petition and a ban on paid petitioners, and show that while the former reduces citizen welfare, the latter improves it.

Keywords: Optimal requirements; direct democracy; signature-gathering campaign (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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